Round of 32 Matchup: #9 UConn v. #1 Kansas
- CoachingKevin Ollie is trying to replace a legend at UConn. Jim Calhoun was a big reason that the Huskies were successful over the years, and Ollie is in his fourth season as the new head coach for the team. In his first season as head coach, the team was ineligible for the postseason but still played hard. He won the national title in his second year, but then failed to make the NCAA tournament the next season. Ollie has his Huskies back in again, and looks to prove that UConn is still a force to be reckoned with.When Roy Williams left Kansas, it seemed like his replacement would never live up to the coach he replaced. Bill Self has matched up well, and continued the Jayhawks impressive play through the years. Heading back to his second season with Tulsa in 1998-99, Self has coached his teams to the NCAA tournament 18 straight seasons. However, his team has lost in the Round of 32 for two straight seasons and he hopes not to slip up again this season.
- OffenseHeading into the Colorado game in the Round of 64, the Huskies needed Daniel Hamilton to really step things up, as the leader of the team both offensively and defensively. He averaged 11.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists a game heading into March Madness. Hamilton was great, scoring a double-double, with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the game, but UConn won thanks to a combined effort, as Rodney Purvis led the team with 19 points and Sterling Gibbs added 12 points of his own. That is the kind of performance they will need to win this game.The Kansas Jayhawks destroyed Austin Peay in the Round of 64, 105-79. They were expected to play strong, but two players broke 20 points and two others had double digits. Impressively, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk led the team with 24 points from off the bench after averaging 5.7 a game over the season. For the starters, Perry Ellis scored 21, Landen Lucas scored 16, and Wayne Selden Jr. added 14. On the season, Ellis averaged 16.8 and three other players average in double digits, and they all shoot better than 40 percent from three-point land. This is a strong, deep, offensive team.
- DefenseThe strength of the Huskies is on defense, where they rank fifth in the nation in holding opposing teams to 41.4 percent shooting from inside the arc. That was Colorado’s weakness and UConn held the Buffaloes to 45.1 percent in that game. UConn also outrebounded Colorado, 36-33, forced 12 turnovers, and stole the ball eight times. That opportunistic defense is what can lead the Huskies to an upset in this round.Perry Ellis is also the leading rebounder for the Jayhawks, but only averaged 5.8 per game. However, despite the lack of stat sheet numbers, Kansas is one of only two teams that ranks in the top 10 in both offense and defense this season, alongside Virginia. Frank Mason is one of the best defenders on the team and both Lucas and Jamari Traylor stand 6’10” and 6’8” respectively. They held Austin Peay to 41 percent shooting from the field, forced 12 turnovers, and pulled down an impressive 41 rebounds.
- Bench DepthUConn headed into March Madness with little to no bench depth. Amida Brimah and Jalen Adams are the names that come off the bench, but neither are offensive weapons or defensive standouts. In the win over Colorado, Adams actually scored nine points while Brimah added seven rebounds, which is more than anyone expected from the duo. It was nice to see life from the Huskies bench, and they need to repeat that against Kansas.Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk scored 24 points in the opening game for Kansas in this year’s March Madness from the bench. The thing is that he is not normally that solid. This was his highest scoring game ever, but he was strong in all aspects of the game. He is a strong weapon if he plays at that level again. However, when Kansas is not blowing out an opponent, they utilize that bench a lot less. They used four players off the bench, who scored six points, in the Big 12 championship game.
The Kansas Jayhawks have a strong enough team to not just win this game, but win the entire NCAA tournament this season. The match-up is a marquee one when looking at past history, but this year’s Kansas team is so much better than UConn that any chance for an upset here is slim. Kansas should win, and might win by double digits by the time all is said and done.